3 – Damaged, and Good

This is the post that, as I start to write it, has me, personally, fearful.

The anxiety is because it is something one is allowed to acknowledge privately among some people, but, in general, when you say it and you say it with anything less than almost clinical detachment or else buried in semi-humorous and often absurdist context, gets you beaten by a mob of your “peers”.

It is, therefore, one of the last of the major Golden Calves I’ll be going after for a while — those sacred cows that have, all too foten, distracted people from the deeper and more important issues.

The “easy” and horrifically offensive way of saying it carries with it intimations and inferences of transphobic thought, and harbors in it a history of abuse and damage caused against all people who are different in this way. It is ableist to say, as well, and it reduces people in four words or less to caricatures.

So I’ll say it, then introduce the fold, and if you haven’t decided to kill me on reading it, then read on and do it later.

Trans people are crazy.

Its the crazy part that pisses people off, and for good reason. That term is so loaded that crazy is pretty much the even less useful companion to “retarded”, and that word is pretty much the nigger of that sphere.

It does, however, serve as an effective shorthand and introduction to get you to be aware of what the real truth of the matter is.

And the real truth of the matter is that trans people are human beings who have spent their lives being abused by the world around them and subjected to constant, unending pain and what is in many ways just plain torture.

Its waterboarding for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and it most commonly lasts decades and starts with your own flesh doing the torturing of you while you try anything to stop it.

And yes, that does assume that they sleep 8 hours a day.

In my case, it started between 1970 and 1973 and it didn’t end until 2006. Probably a little later, since that “end” point was really just the start of a more intense version of it that tapered off rapidly after that.

Now, some folks might consider my analogy of the Dysphoria of trans folk (and, yes, I do indeed mean all of them) being compared to waterboarding or perhaps eventhe most vile forms of torture ever devised as being unfair.

Perhaps even “taking it too far”.  And yet, the basis for this is a series of research findings dealing with the physiology of pain, the nature of the responses in the brain of human beings to social events, and the narrative experience of trans people of all sorts.

Exclusion causes physical pain.

Having your sense of self denied is rejection, and rejection causes physical pain.

Being told that you are a boy, not a girl (or vice versa), being told to man up, being told that you don’t fit into this group of people and then told you fit into a group of people that are described in terms that are negative, defaming, derisive, and derogatory, causes physical pain.

Bullying causes physical pain.

And if you think that what I’m doing here is another attack on the separatists, well, you are wrong.  Yes, they can be covered by this piece, as when they do something like say so and so isn’t a transsexual — despite what that person claims — they are causing them physical pain that is no different from someone calling a person a tranny or saying all trannies are faggots and should die or whatever.  But the point here is that all of that stuff causes pain and all trans people go through this their whole lives.

Kipling Williams has done a lot of work in this area over the last decade, and even has some  recent stuff that dramatically effects the understanding of what ostracism does to someone.  It was his work that led to the findings that being rejected by a potential paramor, and questions about his methodology that led to the findings that breaking up causes pain.

ANd this is physical pain.  It doesn’t leave visible scars on the person, but it is still just as real a pain as someone walking up and striking you with a 2 by 4 upside the head.

Because it isn’t visible, however, you don’t see it, and you are less likely to have a concussion.

Now, a lot of people see this stuff and they look at it discretely, and they think “well duh — why do you think we don’t tell gramps witha heart condition the bad news?  It would kill him.”  Or perhaps even “that’s why people die of a broken heart.”

Because, while the “broken” part doesn’t seem to be real, the idea behind it, and the knowledge of how that kind of pain really does feel like a painful lump near the heart that seriously and deeply hurts in a way that’s not unlike a migraine (and yes, the poets are not joking, and yes I’ve had that), there is a scary reality behind all of this research.

It shortens lives.

That is, it is, literally, killing people.  Beng mean to other people shortens their lives.

Pain causes stress to the bodily systems.  That stress can be recovered from when one has time to do so, but think about the challenge to people who are constantly, day in and day out, subjected to that kind of stress.

Now, stop all the other thinking about this, and focus on this aspect — all of this stuff causes pain.

We call causing pain to children abuse.

And most trans people these days, sadly, were not gifted with accepting and welcoming families that worked to make their lives better and more tolerant, and did not have schools that were aware and adaptive and did not have friends and neighbors and strangers in grocery stores who “got it”.

Yes, we know what the impact on their day to day lives is, already — we have the thick report about that Injustice.

I’m talking about taking those people in that report — and the people who are not statistically represented by that report due to elements beyond the reach of the authors’s resources — and going back in time with them.

Now, I am not saying that the parents of all trans people were abusive, willy nilly.

And yet, it was an abusive childhood.

THe very culture that I was raised in was inherently abusive — just as it is today.

Everybody abused them.  All the time, every day.

The Department of Health and Human Services notes:

While physical injuries may or may not be immediately visible, abuse and neglect can have consequences for children, families, and society that last lifetimes, if not generations.

The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral, and societal consequences. In reality, however, it is impossible to separate them completely. Physical consequences, such as damage to a child’s growing brain, can have psychological implications such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties. Psychological problems often manifest as high-risk behaviors. Depression and anxiety, for example, may make a person more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, or overeat. High-risk behaviors, in turn, can lead to long-term physical health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and obesity.

Children are resilient, we say.

Funny, the overriding commentary on Trans people is that they are resilient, as well.  Hmmm.  I wonder if there is a parallel there…


What do they mean?

Poor physical health. Several studies have shown a relationship between various forms of household dysfunction (including childhood abuse) and poor health (Flaherty et al., 2006; Felitti, 2002). Adults who experienced abuse or neglect during childhood are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers (Springer, Sheridan, Kuo, & Carnes, 2007).

Poor mental and emotional health. In one long-term study, as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996). Other psychological and emotional conditions associated with abuse and neglect include panic disorder, dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anger, posttraumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder (Teicher, 2000; De Bellis & Thomas, 2003; Springer, Sheridan, Kuo, & Carnes, 2007).

Social difficulties. Children who experience rejection or neglect are more likely to develop antisocial traits as they grow up. Parental neglect is also associated with borderline personality disorders and violent behavior (Schore, 2003).

Juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused and neglected children were 11 times more likely to be arrested for criminal behavior as a juvenile, 2.7 times more likely to be arrested for violent and criminal behavior as an adult, and 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for one of many forms of violent crime (juvenile or adult) (English, Widom, & Brandford, 2004).

Alcohol and other drug abuse. Research consistently reflects an increased likelihood that abused and neglected children will smoke cigarettes, abuse alcohol, or take illicit drugs during their lifetime (Dube et al., 2001). According to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as two-thirds of people in drug treatment programs reported being abused as children (Swan, 1998).

Now, people who know me fairly well are very much aware of just how much I support the work of those who work with children that are trans.  It is a passion of mine, and it is a passion that I don’t speak to often.  And I am very picky about all of that stuff.

But what I have to deal with in my work, and what I see when I go online, and what I’ve done and been party to myself in my life, and pretty much any time I encounter someone who is trans of any sort — and it doesn’t matter if they are GQ ot TS or TG or DQ or whatever other little pet name someone might have for them and those people who are like them — is a crapload of people who are still dealing with what is, essentially, a traumatic childhood.

ANd when I talk about this to other trans people, I encounter a lot of resistance.  I hear a lot of people talk about how yeah, that bit about how being ostracized hurts and all that, but the moment I take it to the point of their childhoods I get a lot of blowback and a lot of people trying to say that their family was this and they were like this and how they are good and all that.

And yet, they show it.

People like to think of abusive homes as some slovenly parents who beat their kids and barely make a living and all that in some dive in the poor part of town.  THey apply the worst case scenarios of the TV to the mental image and they say that wasn’t my life so I couldn’thave done that.

ANd then they read the above stuff and they things like ‘well, I’m not really one of those people because I’m wasn’t depressed and I didn’t go out and catch an STD and I never developed emotional problems and I was a perfect little student and all the rest of the crap that people say to get themselves out of it because we all know what all of that stuff sounds like.

It sounds like what our opponents say about us.  That we are bad people.  That we are damaged goods.  THat we should be shoved into some sort of fixed up patched up just like everyone else state. That we are wrong. That we are deviant.

That we are crazy.

But here’s the odd thing.  They say that since we are crazy, the fix isnt’ to “give in” to our crazy, but to go against it.

The problem is that the reason we are crazy is thinking like theirs, and the fix is to repair the damage they did in the first place.

Just saying.


Here’s the thing — its still the case that being trans is overwhelmingly accompanied by childhood trauma and abuse. And a lot of the ways that people deal with that don’t always make sense to people who don’t work int he social services field.

But I will tell you that it is amazingly varied.

How many times have you seen people talk about how much smarter trans people are than cis people?  How many times have seen smart people suddenly go googly eyed over a pair of pretty shoes if they are femme or some grunge, fringe, off the beaten path musical group?

Look at the impacts described above.  Note the variety of them.  Note how disparate they can be.

Resilient doesn’t even begin to describe what trans people are.

And the same effects apply be they cross dressers or ultra binary transsexuals.  Indeed, the very fight that we see out there twixt the TG and the TS and the whatever else all has its roots in the heart and soul of the expereinces that I’m talking about.

One of the most interesting things is that the abused become the abusers.  And the worse the abuse, the most likely they will, in turn, spread that.

Now keep in mind that I say often that many of those who are known as the nasty trolls — the people who say the mean stuff, who exclude and deride — are people that the community created.  It isn’t always out of a desire to — maybe their politics were wrong at some meeting they attended, or maybe they felt they were being mocked one time or maybe they just got a funny look one day or saw something that triggered some issue they have as a result of their background.

But they turned their backs on the wider community, and they separated from it and they got theirs and they occasionally come back to spread a truckload of manure on everyone’s front door in little paper bags that are on fire and they move on.

Or maybe they carry deep resentment inside them at genuine wrongs done them by some segment or people they took as being a part of that segment and formed a prejudice agains thtat group as a result.

And this is important, because people who are abused are more likely to form prejudices that are more durable and more lasting and if you don’t believe me go ask a lot of really vocal gay folks what they think about religion.

Or go read some of the more caustic stuff from KatRose, who’s writing at times bounces back and forth across the line of homophobic. Or read some of the stuff I’ve written about Leigh and Susan Taylor or stuff they’ve written about, well, pretty much anything.

We make that happen ourselves.



Now, if it strikes you that what I’m saying is we have not merely a dysfunctional community full of dysfunctional people, but a crapload of damaged goods trying to act like we aren’t broken, well, then, you have a pretty negative view on things.

Because what I’m saying is that yes, while we are damaged, we are not goods.

But we are good.

Damn good.

We are good because despite all that pain, all that anguish, all that angsty stuff and what really amounts to people who suffer from every sort of pain induced horror that humans can be accosted with, we just don’t lie down and instead we rise up and take control of our lives.

You already know why so many have tried suicide. Now think on why so many have succeeded.

We are not victims.  We are victors who have faced some of the most overlooked brutality that people can inflicton others, and we just keep getting back up and saying “go ahead, make my day”.

Ok, maybe the Dirty harry quote was a bit over the top, but you probably get the point.  Or at least, I hope you do.

Since the day that Harvey Milk stepped up and said he was here to recruit you, the gay community has been fighting to recover and these days we see tales and stories of how they are dealing with this very same thing as well.

And things for them over the last 30 years have improved greatly.  FOr us, they’ve stayed about the same.

What’s the difference?  COming out. Openness.  Claiming.  Blah blah bl — you know the drill, you hear it all the time.

THere’s the work that is done for the Kids that is changing that for future generations.

But I see all of this stuff, all of this pain, and if you wonder why it is that I have, really, over the last year changed dramatically in my approach to comments and to posts and in my reactions to the usual suspects, then I will tell you.

Its because I incorporated all of this stuff into my understanding of the really big picture.  The ginormous one, the one that posits me as a speck somewhere.

It makes a lot of the pieces fall into place. It answers questions and it helps me to form the programs and the seminars I do — and I am anything but a boring speaker.  I put a lot of energy and time into being something beyond a talking shadow next to the slide on the screen.

Its why I’ve had such success in reaching people, in explaining the challenges that trans people deal with, and its why I sit and cry when I feel I’ve failed someone.

Does this relieve anyone of personal responsibility, though?

No.  It doesn’t.  Woe is me, my parents beat me every day doesn’t excuse a mass murderer.

But it does mean we should try to stop it so there are fewer mass murderers.

Does it excuse me from calling people fuckwits?  No.  Besides, I’d still call people fuckwits.  Fuckwittery needs to be identified and called out.

Even mine — such as when I call some people fuckwits.

If you get the point.

Despite all of that, we are a strong, unbending, resilient, capable people who are, even as adults, all too often treated with significant ostracism, significant rejection, and ongoing pain and abuse.

And yet we laugh and love and fight and argue and work and play.


I was recently asked:

“Why would someone who transitioned years ago even want you or anyone to “reach them.” “

And my response was”

If you think I do what I do for people who transitioned years ago, that you have a long way to go in your own personal growth and understanding, and that you need to open your eyes and see a truth that escapes you.

You are lost in your life. I’m not.

It is a response that a lot of people don’t understand.

Let me make it clearer.

Because I understand, and have incorporated all of the above into all the other stuff that I know, and because I know things that go beyond even the basic stuff that we talk about, I am aware, at a fundamental level, that the people who — like myself — have crossed that rubicon, and transitioned and reached a point of whatever, don’t really freaking count.

It is the people who are just starting, the people who are struggling with it, the one’s who tried once before and couldn’t do it and so are trying again, the one’s who have separated but want to find that old solace after being away, the ones that do not have theirs yet, that count.

I don’t do anything for those who already have theirs.  I do everything for those who don’t.

And I am not alone in this.  Activism and advocacy are not about the people who already have their stelth and belnding, their false privilege and their easy life.

They are not about the haves, and no matter how loud a have will whine, they are still a have.  They are about the have nots.

Seriously — what would I get out of an ENDA being passed?  Me, personally?  What benefit would I gain?  A job?  I have one.  Its a good one.  Peace of mind?  I have that.  Bathroom benefits?  I’ve got that.

So, if that’s the case, and I’m going to do everything on behalf of myself, then why the hell would I care about ENDA passing?

Good luck with that.

I know why I do things.  I do them for those yet to come and those just now coming.  And anyone who isn’t working on behalf of those people, and doing real work, is full of horse manure and engaging in fuckwittery.

ANd I mention this because of something that a few hardy souls are determined to keep bringing up, over and over and over again.

Up above, one of the things that’s noted as a result of the pain that is inflicted on us is an increased risk of certain types of asocial and antisocial behavioral development points.

THe sortof stuff that leads to ASD — what has, in the past, been called sociopathy.

Now, I’ve been honest with everything I’ve done since I started my transition. It was a fundamental premise that I had to engage in the very day I came out to myself.

Which is why I had no problem mentioning that little quirk to my past.  Plus, it served to underscore the fact that you know what?  I was not a nice or good person before.

I am now.  I might be self deprecating at times, but flat out, I am.  And that diagnosis is old — so very old.

No one in their right mind would use it with me now.  And, what’s even more interesting, is that were it accurate, I couldn’t do the job I do.

At all.

You see, although I can talk about the emotional rewards of doing it, were it the case, those rewards would not be useful enough, would not be practical enough, would not be enough, period, to make up for the cost of it to my life, to my future, to my physical, spiritual, and emotional self.

But I gotta admit, it is so much fun watching people fall over themselves dealing with that piece of news.  The ones that do it the most are the one’s that show me that they do indeed fear me.

While the rest of the ones that count have pretty much figured it out already.



In closing today, I am going to copy and paste a status update from FaceBook that seems appropriate and that I just saw a few short minutes ago:

BREAKING NEWS:The Pity Train has just derailed at the intersection of Suck It Up & Move On, and crashed into We All Have Problems,before coming to a complete stop at Get the Hell Over It. Any complaints about how we operate can be forwarded to 1-800-waa-waa. This is Dr.Sniffle Reporting LIVE from Quitchur Bitchin’.If you like this, repost it. If you don’t,suck it up cupcake! Life doesn’t revolve around you. :)


If you’ve made it this far, and you are brave, perhaps you’d like to tell me what you think is worth saving here.  I’d love to hear what posts you think are worth the most to you.